In this week’s Fracking Week in Parliament:
Scottish Conservatives accuse the Scotland’s First Minister of “double-standards” over shale. She accuses them of wanting to “ride roughshod” over local opinion and concerns.
Read the full exchange here.
Thanks to www.theyworkforyou.com for the transcript
29 September 2016
Question to the First Minister
Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative leader, MSP Edinburgh Central
Is the First Minister in favour of shale gas being used in Scotland?
Nicola Sturgeon, The First Minister, SNP MSP, Glasgow Southside
Ruth Davidson is well aware of the Scottish Government’s position. We are taking a cautious, evidence-based approach to shale gas and fracking. That is the right approach, given the range of environmental, health, transport and community impact concerns that have been raised. We have a number of research exercises under way that will report over the next few weeks, followed by a full public consultation. When that has ended, the Scottish Government will come to a considered judgment. Given the seriousness of the issue, that is the right and proper way to proceed.
That is interesting, because the Gemmell report was due out in the summer, and on Saturday it will be October.
Let us set out, for a moment, this Government’s principled stance on shale. For the past year, when it has come to shale gas in this country, the Government has leapt on its high horse, preached about a moratorium and boasted that it is the planet’s best friend. However, when the gas is poured into a tanker and shipped all the way across the Atlantic to our shores, the Government turns a blind eye and hopes that if it ignores it, everybody else will too.
Not surprisingly, the First Minister and her Cabinet have refused absolutely every media opportunity to talk about the issue this week, so I will give her the chance now. Will she explain the Scottish National Party’s total double standards on the matter?
The decision about the import of shale gas to Grangemouth was taken by Ineos, which is a company that is absolutely free to take such decisions. Ineos, of course, is an extremely important company in the Scottish economy.
I appreciate that the Scottish Conservatives’ position on fracking in Scotland is to ride roughshod over local opinion and the range of environmental and other concerns that have been raised. Ruth Davidson is perfectly entitled to argue that position.
I think that it is better to take the evidence-based, precautionary approach that this Government is taking, because we should not play fast and loose with our environment. We will continue to undertake the work that we have set out, the detail of which is well known. When the research projects report, we will embark on a full public consultation. Everybody with any opinion on or interest in the issue, including the Scottish Conservatives, will be able to contribute to that consultation.
When we take account of all the issues involved, we see that that is absolutely the right and responsible way to proceed, and that is what the Scottish Government will continue to do.
The First Minister has already ignored her own experts on shale gas. The results of its expert advice in 2014 are on its own website, for everyone to see.
Let me try another question. It is quite possible that shale gas will get the go-ahead in the rest of the United Kingdom soon, if local communities back it. Providers say that if it gets the go-ahead, much of the gas will go to Grangemouth and will end up in the national grid, powering Scottish homes. We could end up with a ban on Scottish gas, but with Scottish homes reliant on English gas to keep the pipes warm. Is the First Minister entirely comfortable with that?
I know that the Scottish Conservatives are a party that is controlled by London but, in the era of devolution, I think that it is right that we take the decisions about fracking in Scotland here in Scotland in our national Parliament, and that is what we will continue to do.
Given the concerns that have been raised domestically in Scotland, in other parts of the United Kingdom and in many other countries, we will continue to take an evidence-based approach. I will leave Ruth Davidson to explain to communities across the central belt of Scotland why her party would choose to ride roughshod over the concerns that have been raised.
From an energy point of view, of course this is an important decision, and it will be considered carefully by the Scottish Government. I thought that Ruth Davidson might want to take the opportunity to talk positively about the record levels of renewable energy that are being generated in Scotland and some of the world-leading projects in tidal energy and offshore wind that are being taken forward here. However, the Tory Government at Westminster is, of course, more interested in undermining renewable energy than it is in supporting it.
We will continue to take decisions that are right for Scotland and right for our future energy needs. As I said, I will leave Ruth Davidson to explain her position to communities across Scotland.
The First Minister might want to pick her own questions, but she still has no answer to the one that she is being asked. I am not surprised by that, because she is a First Minister who does not want to admit that her Government’s failure on energy will leave us reliant on others to keep our homes heated. [
There are 10,000 jobs in central Scotland that are reliant on shale gas coming here from other countries, but we still have no answers on shale gas at home.
I fully accept that there are differing views on fracking, but nobody is well served by a Government that hides from view and kicks the issue into the long grass. The moratorium was announced nearly two years ago. Her Government has been overtaken by events, because the first tanker of shale gas arrived this week. Will the First Minister give the country some proper answers? When will they be forthcoming?
We set out the timescale for the reviews, and the moratorium is in place while those reviews are under way. The process and timescale were described by Friends of the Earth Scotland as “a well designed process, over a sensible timescale”, and I would agree with that.
Being lectured on energy by a representative of the party that is pouring public money into the white elephant that is Hinkley Point is a bit rich. Ruth Davidson has asked a series of questions about energy, but she has somehow managed to forget to mention the statistics that have come out today that show that 2016 is on track to be a record year for renewables generation in Scotland. That is a real success story, and I think that we have just heard that the Scottish Conservatives do not like talking about success stories in Scotland.
What’s happening elsewhere?
- The Westminster Parliament has a recess for the party conferences and returns on 10 October 2016
- The UK Labour Party announced at its conference that it would ban fracking in government. DrillOrDrop report